August 20, 2021

Woodworking vs Wood Carving | The Similarities and Differences

Woodwork and woodcarving are both forms of woodworking. Both involve cutting and shaping wood, and you can do both with hand tools. This is why the two are often used interchangeably. One can be done for style, while the other is used for artistic purposes, but their methods and goals differ.

The similarities between woodworking and wood carving keep the projects in the same bracket. However, the two are for different projects, and a difference sets them apart. Woodworking is meant for furniture and cabinet making, whereas wood carving is for sculptors. They do not use the same tools. Below is a detailed comparison of the two.


Woodworking is a process that involves making furniture and other items from wood. Wood makes the design of the piece. Some detailed designs require skills in craftsmanship, but you can still run projects as a beginner. 

The process starts by selecting your choice of wood and materials. Selecting the appropriate wood is as good as choosing the raw material. The wood starts as a tree, transforms into a log, and goes through seasoning in a kiln-drying chamber. 

Moisture levels reduce so that the chances of having rot wood are low when the woodworking process starts. After seasoning, the wood becomes proper for taking the form of furniture. The woodwork process is not supposed to be rushed if you want precision. 

Patience comes first, then turnaround time second. The edges have to be smooth to change from wood to furniture. When done making your furniture, surface finishing follows. Multiple coats of seal, stain, or paint must be applied depending on the type of finish you want. 

The finishing process protects your furniture from rot, water, insects, and the sun. Your furniture lasts longer than expected. Quality check concludes the furniture-making process. How-to videos, step-by-step articles, project plans, photo galleries, and tool reviews help you through your early stages. 

Woodworking is a process that relieves stress and exercises muscles. It involves a lot of hobbyists who are not running projects for money but for enjoyment. Tools are a requirement to complete the tasks, no matter how experienced you are. These include power saws, hand saws, hammers, drill screw guns, and tape measures. 

Although there is a wide range of tools for woodworking, there are minimal and affordable tools for beginners. Standard woodworking tools cut, assemble, measure, hold and finish the wooden parts, transforming raw materials into complete furniture. There are beginner guides that give you a list of prioritized tools. 


  • Sharpens your skills
  • Less energy
  • Builds your muscles
  • Improves your communication
  • It helps you learn fine motor control.


  • Manual limitation
  • Intimidating for beginners.

Pro Tip: You may also be interested in What I think about Furniture Craft Plans.

Wood carving

Wood carving is the skill of carving wood to make ornamental objects. There is a need to undertake careful planning before you start the project. Look at your goals and technical skills, research your materials and make a budget. 

Know your weaknesses and strengths as you have to work on either delicate or standard projects. You might even work on both, although complex projects require more experience than manual ones. The initial stage of wood carving starts with selecting wood, and the type of wood you have to pick matches the sculpture you are making. 

Wood comes in two, and that is softwood and hardwood. Intricate designs attract softer wood, and hardwood is for furniture. Outline the wood design as you place the reference sheet on top of the wood. 

Hammering follows using a chisel to engrave the marked design. Fine detailing is part of the process, and polishing gives protection and a beautiful finish to your item. The outer surface is smooth, and natural oil protects it from dirt, dust, insects, and harsh weather. 

The carvings are hardly affected by rain and storms. Sculpting involves using carving tools such as knives, rasps, and grinders. For sharpening wood, try mallets, tool rolls, and slip stones. Take care of your wood carving tools as you sharpen them after 30 minutes of use on hardwood. Sharpen the tools on a bench stone. 

A sharpened stone at 45 degrees scraps away parts of the material, a process you cannot avoid. That is on materials that hold a form even when pieces are away from the original piece. Carving types include bone, chip, fruit, gourd, ice carving, wood, and tree carving. 

Materials in three dimensions are for wood carving. Popular materials for wood carving are stone, clay, wood, ivory, and plaster. There are two types of carving: hand carving and CNC machine carving. Durability, color, grain, and texture are characteristics of wood carving. 


  • It helps you concentrate.
  • Freedom of creativity.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Reconnects with nature.
  • Preserves natural color.


  • Complex projects require a skill.
  • Time-consuming.

Favorite Features


Both processes involve multiple tasks that yield different results. They are for cutting, carving, drilling, and trimming. However, woodworking comes with more than wood carving. 


Wood carving ranges from entry-level to advanced levels. It requires more equipment since it makes ornaments and your flaws are visible. Woodworking is affordable since you have a wide range of wood options.


Since both processes allow finishing chemicals, they become durable. Each procedure has its way of becoming stronger. Hardwood is for woodwork and is more durable than wood carving that uses softwood. 


Materials are a necessity when running both projects. Woodworking includes hand and CNC machining, and wood carving tools are highly hand-driven knives and chisels. 

What could be better


  • Manual work should require less effort
  • A combination of both hand and power tools will be ideal


  • More instructional booklets will help beginners. 
  • It takes less time to complete projects.

Similar Features

  • They both use wood to make items.
  • They both require creativity.
  • They both use tools.

Key Differences

  • Wood carving is for sculpture, whereas woodworking is for furniture making.
  • The tools for wood carving are not the same as for woodworking. 
  • Wood carving has a bevel on the tool at a lesser angle than woodworking.
  • The cutting edge for wood carving is thinner than for wood making. 
  • Creativity is a requirement in wood carving, and you can get away with less creativity in woodworking.

The verdict

If you are into furniture, woodworking is the ideal process, and if you are into sculpture, wood carving is the process. Look at your projects and match them with the process. Wood carving takes more time, which is not ideal for many wood projects to finish. Choose the wood process based on what you want to achieve and match that with the features of each wood process. You should also see our post on How to make a wood carving stand out.

David D. Hughes

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